In 2017-18, Minnesota was number seven on the list of U.S. states in likelihood of a vehicle vs. animal collision. Wisconsin and Iowa came in at #4 and #5 respectively. West Virginia is still far and away the most dangerous state in this department and has been for as long as this kind of data has been collected. But Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota all fall within the range of a 1 in 72 to 1 in 77 likelihood of an incident.
Not entirely comforting odds.
The rankings were based on incidents compared with the number of licensed drivers in the states. The information in this article will be relevant throughout the winter, but starting in the fall, such incidents become much more likely. The “deer in the headlights” is not just a metaphor this time of year, for various reasons:
- Deer and other forest creatures are more mobile because of mating season, hunting, and because they are on an increased daily caloric intake to store fat for the winter.
- It gets darker earlier, and your odds of crossing paths with a deer in the dark increases.
- The foggy, wet, and sometimes icy weather create a situation where braking quickly only makes you slide.
- Even distraction by the fall colors has been cited as a cause for hitting a deer.
In the upper Midwest, in the fall and winter, deer on the road are practically a fact of life. So much so that you’d think Minnesotans would be genetically predisposed to seeing them a mile away, reacting accordingly on instinct. But often we don’t see things right in front of us simply because we are not expecting to. (Similarly, studies have suggested that is why drivers do not see motorcyclists right in front of them, early in the spring.)
So what do you do?
- Don’t swerve. Either take your foot off the gas or hit the brakes if you are very close to hitting the animal and if there is not another vehicle right behind yours. If neither are acceptable options, though it is counter-intuitive to most of us, experts say that hitting the deer is often going to prove a safer option than swerving if you absolutely can’t stop in time.
- Always assume that there are more deer if you see one. Think of the times you’ve spotted a deer in your backyard and you told someone “Look, a deer!…or two!….or…five!” Drive slowly and cautiously until you are confident that you are “out of the woods” so to speak.
- When you see a deer crossing sign, that’s where they have been deemed to be most likely to cross. At that point, if you aren’t already, it is highly recommended you use your high beams to:
- make any deer aware of your car far enough ahead of time that they don’t become the proverbial “deer in headlights”, and
- allow yourself to see further down the road.
I know, high beam use has a bad reputation, but they are a valuable tool, used appropriately. Flicking the lights on and off is a good way to get the animal to run away rather than freezing in your path.
Expect to see more deer at dawn and dusk. That is when they do most of their traveling.
And please remember that Comprehensive Auto insurance is optional but it covers a lot more than the threat of an errant woodland beast crossing the road, so it is well worth having. The average cost of individual claims on vehicle/deer collision, though marginally, is increasing. Call Horihan Insurance today to find out more.